The thundering three of Carlan Pontious, David Cluff and Carlos Lopez paced the Longhorn cross country team to a nail-biting two-point victory over Flagstaff Sinagua.
In the season opener at Payson Golf Course, Sept. 7, the trio led PHS to a meet low 37 points. Sinagua finished at 39, Mingus posted a 65 and Coconino checked out with a 75.
Sinagua's Matti Markowski ran his way to the individual title touring the 3.1 mile course in 17:59. As good as the Flagstaff runner proved to be, it was the two, three, four finish of Pontious, Cluff and Lopez that allowed Payson to escape with a narrow win.
Pontious was timed in 18:04, Cluff in 18:05 and Lopez in 18:11.
Trailing the trio was a band of other runners who freely admit they are in cross-country to get in topnotch shape for winter sports.
Among them are wrestler Lee Perez (12th; 20:08) and basketball players Bryson Addington (16th; 20:27) and Tommy Ashby (18th; 20:32).
"I'll be in the best shape of my life for basketball," Ashby said.
A field of 62 runners competed in the meet.
Others representing Payson were Jonny Malloy (27th; 21:13), Max Siverson (28th; 21:23), Daniel McGee (33rd; 21:42), Trevor Day (37th; 22:18), Levi Neal (43rd; 23:23), Oliver Lewinson (49th; 23:54), Brian Schwind (51st; 25:05), Patrick Vlahovich (52nd; 25:05), Hunter Hardt (53; 25:16), Jeff Day (56th; 26:33) and Matt Jones (58th; 27:00).
Next up for the Longhorn runners is the prestigious Four Corners Invitational Sept. 17 at Buffalo Park in Flagstaff. Start time is 9:30 a.m. The meet will feature some of Arizona's finest runners, including the always speedy Navajo and Hopi tribal members from the northern Arizona reservation schools.
If Pontious, Cluff and Lopez can run on even terms with the Four-Corners field, they will stamp themselves candidates for region honors when the East Championships are held Oct. 29 in Lakeside.
The state championships will be held Nov. 5 at Cave Creek Golf Course.
Four Corners Invitational
9:30 a.m. start time
Saturday, Sept. 17
Buffalo Park in Flagstaff